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Howe marching band aims for return to its glory days (video)

CHRIS JENNINGS/HERALD DEMOCRAT Band Director Angie Cavender Liss, right, leads the Howe High School marching band through practice Tuesday afternoon. Howe will compete against 19 other 2A schools in the Alamo Dome next week.Buy Photo
CHRIS JENNINGS/HERALD DEMOCRAT Band Director Angie Cavender Liss, right, leads the Howe High School marching band through practice Tuesday afternoon. Howe will compete against 19 other 2A schools in the Alamo Dome next week.

HOWE — Picture this: the tunnel is dark and cramped. The nervous shuffling of 68 pairs of feet makes the space sound like a cattle chute. The brass of the instruments catches and reflects bits of the artificial light emanating from the end. In between shoulders and around feathered headgear, there are glimpses of what lies past the tunnel’s mouth: a green expanse of artificial turf and the 65,000 seats of the Alamodome.

“I get chills just thinking about it,” said Howe Band Director Angie Cavender Liss. “We talk all the time about what it feels like to stand in that tunnel in the Alamodome and you look out and you know what you’re fixin’ to do. When it all sinks in, and you’re standing in that tunnel, you just think, ‘Oh, wow.’”

Howe is one of four local bands to make it to the state competition. The others are Sherman, Whitesboro and Van Alstyne.

Cavender Liss will lead the Howe marching band out onto that field for the 20th time in the school’s history next week, as the Bulldogs will look to capture their first 2A state title since winning back-to-back in 1995 and 1997. Howe secured a spot among the 20 teams travelling to San Antonio by way of a second-place finish at the weather-shortened area competition in Denton last Saturday, and it’s a measure of success the town is used to achieving.

“There’s an expectation of, ‘Oh it’s a state year, the band will go to state,’” said Cavender Liss. “Yet we see how the level of performances are rising all around us all the time. We’re always fighting the threat of complacency because, ‘Hey, we’re the Howe band, we always make it to state.’ But just our area alone is tough; the lineup of bands is just amazing”

“The community expects you to go,” added Associated Band Director Julie Cook.

Senior flautist Karlie Niehus said those high expectations may be warranted this year.

“Our music is way better than it was (when Howe qualified) two years ago and then I feel like everyone wants it more so they’re trying their best,” she said.

Jessa Hough, the leader of the color guard, agreed. “I think we’re more prepared than we have been.”

District superintendent Kevin Wilson said the school takes great pride in its history of marching band success, and 2013 is no exception.

“I know that our directors and students invest a huge amount of time and they’re working very hard to carry-on the tradition that we’ve set here,” said Wilson. “They’re just phenomenal — they way they’ve been able to maintain our level of success. We’re very proud of our band program.”

For many of the band’s seniors, percussionist Jonathan Maniet among them, next week will likely be their last chance to experience the camaraderie of the band.

“It hasn’t really become reality yet because I’m still a part of it, and still in that adrenaline rush right now,” said Maniet. “I’m pretty sure that once we get down there and we’ve had our last time, I’m pretty sure it’s going to sink in then. It’s definitely a feeling that I’ll never feel anywhere else.”

According to Niehus, that last walk through the Alamodome tunnel will be something special.

“We’re only guaranteed one more contest,” she said. “That moment is like David looking at Goliath - that tunnel’s not very big and that stadium’s just huge.”

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